Disordered eating does not discriminate; anyone can develop these disorders, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture, size, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.
In the United States, as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from an eating disorder. The disorders often run in families.
Two disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia, are among the most common, and are characterized by a preoccupation with food and a distortion of body image. Other problems including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, can occur as well.
Research shows that early identification and comprehensive treatment leads to more favorable outcomes and recovery.
Symptoms and warning signs of anorexia nervosa and bulimia include the following:
- An individual with anorexia nervosa is typically female, and a perfectionist and is/was a high achiever in school. At the same time, she suffers from low self-esteem, irrationally believing she is fat regardless of how thin she becomes. Desperately needing a feeling of mastery over her life, she experiences a sense of control only when she says “no” to the normal food demands of her body. In a relentless pursuit to be thin, the girl starves herself. This often reaches the point of serious damage to the body, and in a small number of cases may lead to death.
- The symptoms of bulimia are usually different from those of anorexia nervosa. The individual binges on large quantities of high-caloric food and/or purges her body of dreaded calories by self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise, or laxatives. The binges may alternate with severe diets, resulting in dramatic weight fluctuations. Some may try to hide the signs of throwing up by running water while spending long periods of time in the bathroom. Frequent vomiting can cause a serious threat to a person’s physical health, including dehydration, hormonal imbalance, the depletion of important minerals, and damage to vital organs.